​Positive effect of protein-supplemented hospital food on protein intake in patients at nutritional risk: a randomized controlled trial


Background: New evidence indicates that increased dietary protein ingestion promotes health and recovery from illness, and also maintains functionality in older adults. The present study aimed to investigate whether a novel food service concept with protein-supplementation would increase protein and energy intake in hospitalised patients at nutritional risk.

Methods: A single-blinded randomised controlled trial was conducted. Eighty-four participants at nutritional risk, recruited from the departments of Oncology, Orthopaedics and Urology, were included. The intervention group (IG) received the protein-supplemented food service concept. The control group (CG) received the standard hospital menu. Primary outcome comprised the number of patients achieving ≥75% of energy and protein requirements. Secondary outcomes comprised mean energy and protein intake, body weight, handgrip strength and length of hospital stay.

Results: In IG, 76% versus 70% CG patients reached ≥75% of their energy requirements (P = 0.57); 66% IG versus 30% CG patients reached ≥75% of their protein requirements (P = 0.001). The risk ratio for achieving ≥75% of protein requirements: 2.2 (95% confidence interval = 1.3–3.7); number needed to treat = 3 (95% confidence interval = 2–6). IG had a higher mean intake of energy and protein when adjusted for body weight (CG: 82 kJ kg-1 versus IG: 103 kJ kg-1, P = 0.013; CG: 0.7 g protein kg -1 versus 0.9 g protein kg -1, P = 0.003). Body weight, handgrip strength and length of hospital stay did not differ between groups.

Conclusions: The novel food service concept had a significant positive impact on overall protein intake and on weight-adjusted energy intake inhospitalised patients at nutritional risk.